Does Panda Express have MSG in their food despite their claims?

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I normally avoid Panda Express, the largest Chinese fast-food joint in the United States. Actually, as far as my regular diet is concerned, I stay away from all fast food chains. However, when I am traveling (during a long road trip, in the airport) I give myself a longer leash because of the limited dining options.

Heading to my gate at the international terminal at JFK, I walked by the Panda Express and the idea of Americanized-Chinese chain food appealed to me at that specific moment (10:07 AM Eastern).

As impulsive as I was feeling at the time, I knew that I had to do some research whether Panda Express had MSG in their food — seeing as Monosodium Glutamate has a 100% likelihood of throwing me into a migraine headache.

As I double-backed to PandaX after searching unsuccessfully for an alternative, I pulled up Panda Express’s official site on my mobile phone.

After a few clicks (they could use some SEO), I came across their FAQ section where the company claims that they don’t add MSG to their entrees:

Does Panda Express add MSG to their food

After coming across that info, I was pleasantly surprised and thought I was safe to order. I put in an order for their glistening mushroom chicken and beef and broccoli, two dishes with sauces usually packed with MSG, without rice or noodles. I consumed it happily.

A short time after eating the two entrees, I started to feel some of the same effects I experience after I’ve eaten food with MSG. The migraine-like aura clearly wasn’t as strong as other times when I had MSG, but it was apparent there was SOMETHING in the food that triggered the symptoms.

So, Is There MSG in Panda Express’ Food?

Despite Panda Express’s claims, there are quite a few instances online where patrons have experienced MSG-related reactions to their food. Panda Express has stated that they don’t use MSG in their food for as far back as 2008, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have other ingredients that could cause problems for their customers:

Their food is supposedly MSG free. However, the massive amounts of modified corn starch, corn syrup, and processing chemicals in their food would definitely cause the symptoms you described. (source)

I had a very similar experience as this mother had:

We have stopped eating at Panda Express. I am very sensitive to MSG and get Migraines and gastro issues when I eat anything with it. I had not eaten Panda in months because I had gotten ill on it so decided to stay away from it. Was out shopping and the restaurant was close, so I picked it up to bring home and try it again. You guessed it. I woke up with a severe migraine and spent half the day in the bathroom with severe gas pains. I am a nurse and tracked my diet back 48 hours and know Panda food was the issue. I called the restaurant, but they insisted they do not “add MSG”, however the manager hesitated when I asked if anyone at anytime in the food processing chain added MSG or related product. (source)

I can’t believe this is the largest fast food Chinese chain in America… It should be named gross chinese food instead of gourmet… AND IT DOES HAVE MSG!!! (urbanspoon)

This place puts so much MSG in there food it really is bad. I asked to get food woot and they said no.. If you like MSG great but we passed… (tripadvisor)

MSG just isn’t in MSG. What that means is that monosodium glutamate can be found in other products (hence “found naturally”) and are used in the “processing” of other products:

The following are a few products that ALWAYS contain MSG:

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Hydrolyzed Protein: (plant, vegetable, any kind)
Sodium or Calcium Caseinate
Autolyzed Yeast, Yeast Extract
Yeast Food, Yeast Nutrient
Textured Protein
Glutamic Acid
Monopotassium Glutamate

The following products may contain MSG or create MSG during processing:

Natural Flavors, flavoring, flavors, natural �anything� flavor
Bouillon or Stock
Broth (chicken, beef, any kind)
Whey protein, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate
Soy sauce, soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate
Malt Extract or Flavoring, Malted Barley
Anything Protein fortified
Anything Fermented
Anything Ultra Pasteurized
Anything Enzyme-modified

Does Panda Express Use/Have MSG?

Technically, Panda Express many not have MSG added directly into their food, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t use other ingredients or other food products that may already have MSG in them — naturally or not.

For example, if one of their sauces uses chicken or beef broth as its base, then it will include a form of MSG. And depending on your sensitivities, that might be enough to mess you up.

I’m not mad at Panda Express, but I consider that a lesson learned that when I see “No MSG Added” (or even “No MSG”) posted in a restaurant doesn’t necessarily always mean that there’s no MSG at all.

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  1. avatar
    Ingredients Solutions says:

    Do carrageenans contain MSG? No, and here’s why.
    Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, can cause health problems when used to excess. However, despite claims made on various websites, carrageenans are not a source of MSG.
    This confusion may have occurred because carrageenans are derived from seaweeds, and one of the most important natural sources of MSG is the seaweed, kombi. However, carrageenan is extracted from red seaweeds, which contain much less MSG than kombi, a brown seaweed. In addition, any MSG that may be present in the seaweed is washed out during the carrageenan extraction process.
    To prove that carrageenan is not a source of MSG, Marinalg tested two of the carrageenans most often used in food products. These tests were carried out by the independent testing company, Eurofins . The two products that were tested are both strong gelling agents: the refined carrageenan E407, and the lesser-refined carrageenan E407a, also known as PES.
    MSG is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid. Eurofins found that the sample of E407 contained less than 10mg/kg of glutamic acid in total, whether as the free acid, bound into proteins or as the monosodium salt. 10 mg/kg is the limit of detection for the best available testing method, so for all practical purposes, undetectable amounts of glutamic acid in its various forms were present.
    Levels of MSG and free glutamic acid were also below 10mg/kg in the PES sample; it did however, contain 0.22% of bound glutamic acid. It is well known that PES contains small amounts of algal cellulose and protein in addition to the carrageenan. Eurofins found that all of this glutamic acid had been present in the seaweed, in bound form in algal protein.
    When humans consume glutamic acid that is bound in proteins, it is digested in the stomach and lower intestine. The body then uses the glutamic acid that is freed in this way in the normal process of metabolism, or it is discarded as waste. The body does not store excess glutamic acid ingested from protein. On the other hand, directly ingested MSG is absorbed rapidly and is not excreted as fast, and this is what causes the negative health effects associated with excessive consumption of MSG.
    Carrageenans and PES contain less than detectable amounts of free MSG. Health problems have been attributed to the injection of several grams of free MSG at a time. Carrageenans contain less than 10mg of MSG in every kilogram. Very small amounts of carrageenans are used in any given food product. Therefore, they cannot contribute to the negative health effects of MSG consumption.

  2. avatar
    kevin says:

    This write-up is fucking dumb. Its all speculation and bullshit. Msg doesn’t give you the symptoms you described. Not all broths have MSG either.. What a waste of internet space…

      1. avatar
        Chris says:

        Keven, I guess unless you have spent several days with a splitting migraine headache, neck stiffness, shitting and vomiting yourself, you just can’t imagine. Believe me, just because your specific body and metabolism does not exhibit these symptoms doesn’t mean that everyone escapes having those effects and symptoms. I have had way too many MSG episodes to begin to count.

      2. avatar
        Terrie Jones says:

        Wrong. You only say that because either you do not suffer from the headaches, have some investment in refuting the reality, or just don’t know what you are talking about.

    1. avatar
      Alison says:

      You’re an idiot, MSG has been proven in medical lab tests to cause several health issues & side effects in many people. So get your “facts” straight before you make inaccurate idiotic comments that make you look both stupid & very uneducated.

      1. avatar
        Truth Hurts says:

        LOL, the same people saying they have MSG symptons, continue to eat KFC, Chic-Fil-A, McDonalds, Doritos, frozen TV dinners that are loaded with MSG but for some reason, zero side-effects. I guess it’s because it doesn’t have Chinese written on it!

  3. avatar
    fred says:

    I just spent a sleepless night with my son, who had Panda at a baseball game with his grandparents. He and I are both familiar with the effects of MSG. Vomiting and diarrhea don’t just happen out of the blue. I’ve gotten recycled buckets from panda and their “basic cooking sauce” does contain three ingredients that are synonyms for MSG. If it’s fast food, its very likely that it has MSG and preservatives. It’ll take more than Kevin trolling here get me eat Panda Express.

  4. avatar
    Terrence says:

    After I eat any entrees from Panda Express, I have some difficulty breathing. Feels like an allergic reaction. Same happens after eating from McDonald’s or Carl’s Jr. Breathing becomes labored… general discomfort… sometimes associated with coughing.

  5. avatar
    Pepper says:

    Yesterday, our seminar was catered by Panda Express. The food was greasy and I could feel and taste the oil on the rice and noodle dishes. I know they use MSG because I had a rough night, sleeping only a few hours and waking many times. Also experienced severe leg cramps, which always happens when I eat foods that contain MSG. Panda Express is lying to the public! The food wasn’t very good anyway, almost tasteless. Bad place to eat!!!

    1. avatar
      stuarte says:

      Thanks Pepper. I don’t mind the oil and grease, I can work with that, but there’s clearly some form of MSG in their food and Panda Express tries to dance around it with technicalities. Hope you’re feeling better.

  6. avatar
    Derek says:

    I can normally tolerate eating at Panda, one of my usual haunts but, last weekend I ate at a university food court version, eating my normal menu items and a couple of hours later I had the same debilitating symptoms of a migraine that I suffered two weeks earlier after eating at a Dim Sum event at a local Chinese venue. Something was added at that particular Panda.

    1. avatar
      Alison says:

      With all the FDA regulations, I don’t see how Panda Express gets away with lying about their foods containing MSG. I mean I know the FDA has alot of cracks that many business’s fall through & as well as the FDA not always being a trusty reliable source themselves. But if a company that serves foods lies about it’s ingredients and someone has a dangerous & possible life threatening reaction due to the false information provided, then they should be held accountable & be sued. The only way to possibly do anything about this issue is for everyone on this site complaining should file a complaint with the FDA about the MSG issue in the food served at Panda Express so hopefully the FAFD will investigate & test the foods. I know the FDA is spread very thin & doesn’t even bother to deal with alot of situations such as this, but considering Panda is one the largest Chinese food restaurants in the U.S & they are claiming their food to be MSG free, they should be backed up by the FDA after testing etc., that they are being legitimately being honest with that statement. So let’s all file reports to the FDA about our issues, concerns, & personal experiences with Panda Express. That’s the only right way as well as smart way to deal with this once & for all.

      1. avatar
        Pieter says:

        Hi Alison, this is going back on an old post, but Panda does say there is no MSG added…which could technically be accurate. I agree, the FDA should consider it misleading and deceptive when other sources of MSG could be present since some individuals who consume MSG may exhibit an allergic-type reaction or hypersensitivity. Similar to the requirement to state if foods contain peanuts, the issue is not to ban the substance but the clearly state the contents so that some can avoid the foods if needed.

  7. avatar
    Paul says:

    This is the second time I have eaten Panda Express entrees with noodles and rice and had the onset of high pulse rate (at rest) of approximately 88 to 135. My normal rate is about 58 to 60 at rest. I take medication for atrial fibrillation/flutter (flecainide), and it normally keeps my heart rhythm under control. This is rather disturbing in view of the many other replies of migraines and intestinal upsets reported as possibly being MSG related. Perhaps no MSG added, but already present in sauces or packaged products??

  8. avatar
    Lin says:

    I have had bad MSG reactions from eating at Panda. But tonight decided to try it again. Stupid me. I flip flopped in my bed for several hours. Had excessive thirst, burning lips, and violent nightmares. Even screamed out when I did fall asleep and woke up everyone. Can’t wait to see my eyes by morning. They will be swollen shut. And my ears are ringing loudly. This is definitely an MSG reaction. Learned my lesson the hard way.

  9. avatar
    PQ says:

    My body reacts to MSG as if I had taken a sleeping pill. Depending on the amount of MSG, my eyes start getting puffy and I begin feeling tired within about an hour of consumption. If I eat something with a little MSG, I feel the need to take a nap for an hour or so. I passed by a new Panda Express near Penn Station in NYC and after a quick search of their website, I decided to believe their claims of not using MSG. Bad decision. I couldn’t wait to get home and in bed. I slept over 10 hours… I just couldn’t force myself out of bed. All I could do all day (actually all weekend) was drag myself around the house feeling exhausted. This lasted TWO days!!! I usually try to stay away from fast food. I have to avoid this place in the future due to the MSG just as I do Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Funny a couple weeks ago I was walking by the same store and two guys were walking by and one of them pointed to it and all he said was MSG and shook his head.

  10. avatar
    john says:

    I just went to Panda Express and had a really good meal for $10. Then by the time I’d crossed the street I had a pesky headache. I never get headaches. It was irritating and it’s gone now. I suspected MSG, and googling that got me here. I can confirm something off with Panda Express. Panda is off limits for me…

  11. avatar
    Brian Warner says:

    I came across this article after having Panda Express Mushroom Chicken and a migraine shortly after. I thought surely they dont use MSG but after reading this article and everyone’s posts I think I will avoid Panda Express from now on. Thank you for posting.

    1. avatar
      stuart says:

      Thank you for the resources. I get migraines too consistently when I have MSG, however my theory is that it may not necessarily be the MSG, but there’s something about the salt content *AND* if I am dehydrated.

  12. avatar
    Joan says:

    Thank you all for all your insights. Tonight I picked up Panda after a doctor’s appointment as my arm was put in a brace and didn’t feel like cooking. I usually only get it for my two teens. I never eat fast food. But I was hungry and thought I didn’t want to cook something just for myself. Got the mushroom chicken and chow mein. Am so sorry, as I, too, have swollen eyes, awful headache, and ears are stuffed up, nose stuffed up and throat swollen. I am praying this is gone by tomorrow. I, too, cannot have MSG, so there is something in some of the sauces, as usually when I have anything with added pure MSG, I have severe gastrointestinal issues, but I don’t have that yet… Hopefully!

  13. avatar
    E says:

    This is a criminal company. They for all intents and purpose use MSG. They rebranded it. It’s called ribotide. It is analogous.

    We called and the company knowingly lied, did not reveal this ingredient leading to her becoming ill with convulsions. Pure evil deranged.

    Do not trust any chinese food from a restaurant or prepackaged. It will always contain msg or msg analogous ingredients.

  14. avatar
    E says:

    Anything in white powder form that comes from a lab is poison.

    ‘Studies’ mean nothing and based on who is paying for them the study itself and much more they are always wrong and fake. ‘Studies’ are always dis-proven. Always. Life tells the truth. You are in the body and are your own doctor.

    But the most important part in looking for what is real food and will not kill and harm you is just simple normal true food. Even ‘bread’ is not this. You will not find real food anywhere except at a garden, from vegetables, fruits to spices and herbs.

    Not ‘dairy’. This is the vile, deranged abuse and torture of beings. We are not vegan. Once wed realized and learned we stopped immediately. Think along the lines of the Dog meat festival in china (another reason not to eat chinese food. These practices are part of the bigger culture).

  15. avatar
    A says:

    Same thing for me…got Panda for myself and son, after years of avoiding it…had it later yesterday afternoon…

    This morning, deep ache behind eyes and top of head, extreme dry mouth and swollen face. Also gastrointestinal issues: bloating, painful gas.

    No thank you, never again…

  16. avatar
    JoFlo says:

    I find their food delicious and almost addictive which is probably due to the chemicals added to preserve it. I have an autoimmune disease that causes massive inflammation when I have certain foods… Panda express causes a horrible reaction every single time. Whether that is MSG related or not I can’t be sure… but Panda is basically like poison to my body.

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